A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.

Posts tagged "baseball"

Dec 28, 2012
If you can stay light, and stay loose, and stay relaxed, you can play at the very highest level—as a baseball player or a human being.

Nov 14, 2012
Growing up, you just want to compete, and then once you have the weaponry to compete, you want to be really good, and then when you’re really good, you want to be supernaturally good. For me, there’s been this steady metamorphosis from just surviving, to being a craftsman, and then, ultimately, the hope is to be an artist in what you do.

Jun 21, 2012
Speaking of knuckleballs, check out this cool collage of Hoyt Wilhelm from the Los Angeles Times’ art department, Sept. 19, 1971.  (via)

Speaking of knuckleballs, check out this cool collage of Hoyt Wilhelm from the Los Angeles Times’ art department, Sept. 19, 1971. (via)


The knuckleball: “To gain power you must first give up control.”

Good pitching is almost always a business of shattering expectations -following fast pitches with slow, inside with outside. Only the knuckleball, however, sets up expectations, confounds them, renews them and betrays them in the course of a single pitch. (via)

I knew shit about knuckleballs before I heard this Fresh Air interview with R.A. Dickey, a pitcher for the Mets who’s been having an amazing season, recently pitching two consecutive one-hitters.

Then I heard about Knuckleball!, a documentary directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg (they made the terrific Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work):

KNUCKLEBALL! is the story of a few good men, a handful of pitchers in the entire history of baseball forced to resort to the lowest rung on the credibility ladder in their sport: throwing a ball so slow and unpredictable that no one wants anything to do with it. The film follows the Major League’s only knuckleballers in 2011, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, as they pursue a mercurial art form in a world that values speed, accuracy, and numerical accountability.

What makes the stories of these men so interesting is that they were both stuck with shitty baseball careers before they turned to the knuckleball as a last chance shot at salvation, and they wound up on top of their games. To be a good knuckleballer, “You need the fingertips of a safe cracker and the mind of a Zen buddhist.” (As the film’s tagline says, “To gain power you must first give up control.”)

Essentially, what you do when you throw a knuckleball, is you try to make your pitch the exact same every time, because you’re trying to release the ball with as little spin as possible — when that happens, the air current moves against the baseball’s seams and makes the baseball move really strangely. It takes an enormous amount of discipline and technique to throw the pitch, but once the pitch is thrown, it’s equally unpredictable to the batter, the catcher, and the pitcher who threw it. (R.A. Dickey: “I’m just pitching knuckleball by knuckleball and surrendering to the results.”)

(Of course, I’m thinking about how perfect of a metaphor this is for the practice of art: you sit down everyday with the same routine, but you have to trust that once you let go, the process will take you somewhere unexpected.)

The other thing that’s interesting about the knuckleball is that there are so few pitchers who throw it. Instead of being competitive with each other, they actually form a kind of brotherhood — a pack of outcast weirdos, sharing tips about their obsession. R.A. Dickey writes about how rare this is in his memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball: “There’s no chance that an opposing pitcher, no matter how nice a guy, is going to invite me to watch how he grips and throws his split-fingered fastball or his slider. Those are state secrets.”

Knuckleballers don’t keep secrets. It’s as if we have a greater mission beyond our own fortunes. And that mission is to pass it on, to keep the pitch alive. Maybe that’s because we are so different, and the pitch is so different, but I think it has more to do with the fact that this is a pitch that almost all of us turn to in desperation. It is what enables us to keep pitching, stay in the big leagues, when everything else has failed. So we feel gratitude toward the pitch. It becomes way more than just a means to get an out. It becomes a way of life.

Later, Dickey quotes the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

By letting go, it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.

Jun 19, 2012
I went into the Missouri River. I was hanging on by a thread professionally. And when I came out of the river… I was so consumed with just wanting to live in the present well that I think that carried over directly into my pitching and I just cared about each pitch singularly. And so, you know, if one pitch didn’t go well, forget it. Here’s this pitch. What am I going to do with this pitch? And when I did that over and over and over again, I was able to look back and all of the sudden I was putting together a pretty incredible run. And I decided that that’s how I wanted to live my life.

Oct 15, 2011

Nov 05, 2010

Oct 28, 2010

Oct 07, 2010

Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No

Dock Ellis Recalls His Trippy No-Hitter:

In the summer of 1970, Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Dock Ellis’ tossed a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. But according to Ellis, the real feat wasn’t silencing the Padres’ bats; it was doing so while under the influence of LSD.


Roy Halladay’s no-hitter last night seems as good a reason as any to watch Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No again. Come, take my hand.

All true.

Jul 04, 2010
Subscribe to my newsletter and get new art, writing, and interesting links delivered to your inbox every week.